South Carolina Living Magazine May 2023

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MAY 2023
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SOUTH CAROLINA LIVING is brought to you by your member-owned, taxpaying, not-for-profit electric cooperative to inform you about your cooperative, wise energy use and the faces and places that identify the Palmetto State. Electric cooperatives are South Carolina’s — and America’s — largest utility network.

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2023 may

‘The jewel of the community’

With a little help from South Carolina’s electric cooperatives, a community campaign to restore the historic St. George Rosenwald School is nearing completion. Learn about the Rosenwald School movement and share in the memories of former students who attended the school when it was the pride of “Uptown St. George.”

4 CO-OP NEWS Updates from your cooperative


Meet the South Carolina students who just became published authors, thanks to the Children’s Book Challenge.


They did something about it

The winners of the 2023 Pay It Forward competition prove once again that as long as there are electric cooperatives, there will be cooperative people working to make life better for their neighbors in need.


Make-at-home frozen desserts

Forget about store-bought ice cream. Impress your dinner guests with these restaurant-style frozen desserts that are surprisingly easy to make at home.


Best in show

Meet the Columbia woman who has won more S.C. State Fair ribbons than anyone, ever. See how she does it and how she shares her passion for cooking and crafts with her kids and grandkids.



Summer spinach

L.A. Jackson introduces us to several varieties of spinach that can liven up the landscape before they end up on your plate.


Stick with the funny bears

Member of the AMP network reaching more than 9 million homes and businesses

Humor columnist Jan A. Igoe has some choice thoughts on why animal attacks seem to be on the rise and what we should do about it.

Thanks to volunteers like Ralph James, the old St. George Rosenwald School will once again be the pride of the town. Photo by Mic Smith.
10 6
Clara Dixon Britt recalls days spent at the St. George Rosenwald School.





SC | agenda

Write on target

Connection to their local cooperatives and tapping into their creativity helped three young South Carolina students win the 2023 Children’s Book Challenge. A panel of independent judges selected books written and illustrated by Kaia Bishop, Sawyer Blakeley Costello and Aydin Soner among submissions from across the state, and the books will be published and distributed to South Carolina elementary schools this fall. Sponsored by EnlightenSC an educational initiative of the state’s electric cooperatives the competition challenges fourth and fifth grade students to write and illustrate stories that focus on the impact of electricity in their lives, communities and state.

Bishop and Costello, fifth grade students at Hilton Head Island Elementary School for the Creative Arts, co-authored The Electric Trail, which was selected as a regional winner by their local co-op, Palmetto Electric, before advancing as a statewide finalist in the group category. The students split the contest’s $500 cash prize, and their teachers, Jennifer Friend-Kerr and Alexandria Holland, each received a $100 prize.

“This is an unbelievable program,” says FriendKerr, whose students have participated in the Children’s Book Challenge for the last three years. “I’ve seen students just grow and engineer and develop their imaginations through storytelling.”

Soner’s Captain Co-op, the New Assistant, and the Tornado won the individual division after claiming Fairfield Electric’s local contest. The homeschooled fourth grader in Columbia received a $500 cash prize, and his teacher, who also happens to be his mother, Kutina Williams, received a $100 prize.

Captain Co-op, the New Assistant, and the Tornado is about a superhero lineworker who teaches his new partner about co-ops as they restore power after a tornado.

“This is my first time getting a book published, so it’s exciting,” says Soner. “I hope the kids who read it think that it’s good and they learn something from it.”

Have you seen this bird?

Probably not. The rare red-cockaded woodpecker is notoriously difficult to spot, but you can increase your odds with a visit this month to the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge near McBee. Point your browser to for a guide to the 46,000-acre longleaf pine forest and learn why this is the perfect time of year for a bird-watching expedition.

Rounding up your weekend

There is no excuse for boredom in South Carolina—not when you have our online Calendar of Events page at, with plenty of festivals, concerts and shows to choose from. May’s listings include the Black Cowboy Festival in Rembert May 25–27. This annual event celebrating the contributions of African Americans to America’s beloved cowboy culture is open to all and takes place at Greenfield Farm.

Tasty homegrown tomatoes

Upstate gardeners take note: You have until the end of this month to get your tomatoes planted. If you’re up to the challenge, download our free 2023 gar-

BUDDING AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATORS Children’s Book Challenge judges awarded the top prize this year to not one, but two books and their three authors. Above left: Palmetto Electric’s Kaia Bishop (left) and Sawyer Blakeley Costello teamed up to write The Electric Trail. Above right: Fairfield Electric’s Aydin Soner won for his superhero story, Captain Co-op, the New Assistant, and the Tornado.


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They did something about it

THOSE WHO LIVE IN POVERTY carry their burden in many hidden and sometimes not-so-hidden ways.

When I was in high school, I drove a school bus. On cold winter mornings, as I followed my route in the Bethel community, it was sometimes necessary to crack open my window. Some of the students I picked up carried with them pungent evidence that they lived in a home without indoor plumbing no running water, no water heater, no toilet and no bathroom.

It’s difficult to imagine what that must have been like for them. How much harder was it for them to sit in a classroom and try to learn history or math while they lacked the hygiene, comfort and dignity that I took for granted?

Thankfully, help was on the way for children like those on my bus route. Soon, they would benefit from people who understood the plight of rural South Carolinians and did something about it.

People like S.C. Gov. John C. West, who went on poverty tours of the state in the early 1970s and then called for action to help families living in substandard housing.

One of the programs born out of that initiative became known as the Privy Project attaching modular or “snap on” bathrooms to any structurally sound home that lacked the amenity, like the homes on my bus route. Since many of these homes were in rural communities, South Carolina’s electric cooperatives identified members who were candidates for the improvements and helped find funding to bring indoor plumbing to those homes in the 1970s.

Our state and her people have come a long way thanks to electric cooperatives and initiatives like the Privy Project. But even today, there are still neighbors in our communities who are struggling. And thankfully, there are still people willing to help them.

One of the enduring challenges some rural women face is “period poverty,” the lack of access to adequate menstrual products, hygiene facilities, education and other related menstrual resources. Period poverty affects more than 500 million women worldwide. The problem also hits home in South Carolina, where one in five women and girls lives below the federal poverty line, many of them in rural communities.

Imagine if your child or grandchild didn’t have

adequate access to the resources she needs as she begins to menstruate. What if she didn’t have a pharmacy nearby, or couldn’t afford the products sold there?

What if, instead of being taught proper hygiene, she was only told to do what was necessary just to make it through the day? What if she had to enter the already difficult stage of adolescence with these added anxieties and stigmas?

Just like Gov. West five decades ago, four students at the University of South Carolina’s Honors College cared enough about the plight of rural South Carolinians to do something about it.

Thrisha Mote, Anusha Ghosh, Jiya Desai and Aastha Arora came up with a solution to period poverty, and their proposal won this year’s Pay It Forward competition. Sponsored by South Carolina’s electric cooperatives, the competition challenges students from Clemson University, S.C. State University and the University of South Carolina to find solutions to pressing social and economic problems that plague South Carolina’s rural areas.

Mote, Ghosh, Desai and Arora each earned $5,000 for their winning proposal, “No Periods Left Behind.” They called for the creation of a community-based nonprofit organization that would provide menstrual products, education and hygiene facilities to rural women experiencing period poverty.

The organization would create partnerships with local businesses, community organizations and government entities to increase access to menstrual products and ensure that all women and girls can manage their periods with dignity. The foursome is using a portion of their prize money to support the Midlands with menstrual product donations. “We don’t plan to drop this project,” says Ghosh, a Greer native.

That kind of spirit is common among co-op folks.

As long as there are electric cooperatives, there will be co-op members who recognize the unnecessary burdens that those around them must carry. As they have for decades, co-op members will take action to make life better for their neighbors.

SC | dialogue
MIKE COUICK President and CEO, The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina
Even today, there are still neighbors in our communities who are struggling. And thankfully, there are still people willing to help them.
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Make-at-home frozen desserts



3 half-pints assorted fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries)

H cup simple syrup

3 tablespoons pomegranate juice



H gallon vanilla ice cream

1 cup crushed meringue nests (store-bought or homemade*)

G cup fresh chopped mango

G cup fresh pomegranate arils (seeds)

In the bowl of a food processor, blend berries, syrup and juice until smooth. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch casserole or baking dish and put in the freezer. Every 30 minutes, for about 2 hours, scrape sides and bottom back and forth with a fork to keep mixture from turning into an ice block. It is ready when the mixture is light and flaky. Serve in individual serving bowls.

CHEF’S TIP What to do with leftover granita? Granita is best eaten immediately, so have a second helping. If you do have leftover granita, freeze it in ice cube trays. The cubes are refreshing eaten on a hot day, or serve them, along with plain ice cubes, in fruit beverages or sparkling water.

What’s cooking at

CHILLY CHOCOLATE Who says cream puffs have to be room temperature? Chef Belinda’s tasty recipe for Chocolate-Filled Profiteroles calls for serving them frozen at your summer party.



1 pint lemon sorbet (or flavor of choice)

6 ounces fresh quartered strawberries (or chopped seasonal fruit)

G cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1 pint vanilla frozen yogurt

1 pint mango sorbet (or flavor of choice)

Quartered or sliced fresh strawberries, for garnish

Fresh mint, for garnish

Line a freezer-proof, 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, overlapping the sides (for easy removal). Set aside. Soften lemon sorbet and, using a rubber spatula, spread on the bottom of loaf pan to form an even layer. Place in freezer until firm, about 1 hour.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring strawberries, sugar, vanilla and lemon extract to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer five minutes,

1 cup frozen raspberries

Fresh raspberries, for garnish

Pomegranate arils, for garnish

Line a freezer-proof, 9-inch or 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, overlapping the sides (for easy removal). Set aside. Slightly soften ice cream, enough to stir, and place in a medium bowl. Stir in meringue nests, mango, pomegranate arils and frozen raspberries. Spoon into loaf pan. Cover with plastic film and then foil. Freeze well. Slice and serve garnished with fresh berries and pomegranate arils.

*Build your own meringue nests Find the recipe online at SCLiving/food/chefbelinda

stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool. Meanwhile, allow frozen yogurt to soften, 15–20 minutes, to a spreading consistency. Place in a medium bowl and gently fold strawberry mixture into yogurt and blend until yogurt turns pink. Smooth strawberry mixture evenly over firm lemon layer and return to freezer for another hour or until strawberry layer is firm.

Bring mango sorbet to room temperature, 15–20 minutes. Place in a medium bowl and stir until spreading consistency. Spread evenly over strawberry layer, cover with plastic film and return to freezer overnight to completely freeze.

When ready to serve, peel away the plastic film and invert onto a serving tray. Also remove the second film from the bottom. Slice with a knife that has been soaked in a cup of hot water and dried. Serve immediately, garnished with strawberries and mint.

CHEF’S TIP Sherbet versus sorbet. Sherbet is made with dairy products and sorbet is made with fruit and fruit juices. Sherbet is not a substitute for sorbet.

SC | recipe
May is here with warmer weather and plenty of opportunities for backyard dining. Dazzle your cookout guests with these restaurant-style but easy-to-make frozen desserts.

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Patty Wentworth

CLAIM TO FAME: Over the past 40 years, she’s won 300-plus ribbons at the South Carolina State Fair for her baking and crafts.

DAY JOB: She works in the South Carolina Office of the Inspector General handling complaints via the hotline. The agency investigates fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement and misconduct in the executive branch of state government.

HOMETOWN: Columbia.

ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS: “Butter makes everything better,” says Wentworth, who swears by cooking with fresh ingredients. A good stand mixer also pays off. She’s had her KitchenAid mixer for 30 years.

Best in show

Ask Patty Wentworth how she came to win so many first-place ribbons at the South Carolina State Fair, and she’ll tell you the story of her parents, Robert and Margaret Moon Wright.

A self-described visual learner, Wentworth often thinks of them when she’s in her kitchen or at her crafts table. She grew up watching her father craft his own fishing lures. She took mental notes as she watched her mother design and make the latest fashions for her and her sisters, and cook, well, just about everything.

“My mother made the very best candied yams. And she never used a recipe that I saw. She was just a wonderful cook who could make good food out of whatever,” Wentworth says. “I was fortunate to have family around me to learn from and also learn that you can do a lot of things yourself.”

For the past 40 years, Wentworth has been entering and winning food and craft competitions at the South Carolina State Fair. And as far as anyone can tell, nobody can top her haul of more than 300 red and blue ribbons. At the 2022 fair, she added seven more to the total.

In addition to cooking and baking, she likes working with miniatures, creating entire Christmas villages out of handmade items. She’s used clay to make Halloween figures, adding moss and sticks from her backyard. She’s painted gourds and rocks and won numerous ribbons for Christmas ornaments and door decorations.

“When you get lost in what you’re doing, it’s a wonderful thing,” Wentworth says.

Having set the example, she’s thrilled to see her three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren also competing in State Fair competitions.

“A little bit of my creativity has been passed down,” she says. “It’s a great thing when your children have inherited your love of art.”

SC | stories
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WHEN 101-YEAR-OLD CLARA DIXON BRITT walks through the restored rooms of the St. George Rosenwald School, the memories come flooding back.

Britt attended the school from fourth grade until her high school graduation in 1939, often walking five miles from her family’s home in the Texas community to arrive in time for morning chapel services. “We came through that door and into the auditorium,” she recalls. “We had worship, and then we’d go to class.”

Restoration of South Carolina’s largest Rosenwald School enters the final phase

She smiles at the memories of excelling in French, playing basketball in the school’s courtyard, and the neighbor lady who sold (and often gave) lunches to students. In her mind’s eye, she can still see on what are now vacant lots at the corner of Ann and Gavin streets the movie theater, barbershop, and other stores of “Uptown St. George,” a segregationera African American community that considered the school a major point of civic pride.

Today, with a little help from South Carolina electric cooperatives, a community coalition is finishing the restoration of

the nearly 100-year-old schoolhouse, offering new generations a glimpse into its storied past.

Seed money

Rosenwald Schools are named for Chicago businessman Julius Rosenwald, who was the president of Sears, Roebuck and Co. in the 1920s and 1930s. Rosenwald was inspired to fund the construction of rural schools after Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Institute, took him on a trip to Alabama. There, Rosenwald observed the dire state of African American education and decided to make a change.

With over $4 million of his personal fortune and blueprints drawn by Washington and his architecture students, Rosenwald set out to reshape American education. But instead of paying for each school outright, he offered seed funding (up to $1,500 per school) with the hope that communities would “buy in” and collaborate to raise the rest.

His strategy worked. More than 5,000 Rosenwald Schools were built throughout the Southeast, and it is estimated that over one-third of all African American students in the first

‘The jewel of the community’

half of the 20th century attended a Rosenwald School.

The St. George Rosenwald School was one of the largest and most expensive of its kind. With six classrooms plus an auditorium, it cost a whopping $8,300. Rosenwald contributed $1,500 to the project, the local black community raised $2,000 through bake sales, fish fries, and king and queen contests, and the county public school system supplied the rest.

Construction began in 1925, and the building was complete in time for the 1925–1926 school year. The school operated for nearly 30 years before shutting down in 1954. In the years that followed, it was used as a community events space and conference center, and it housed a local Head Start program. Eventually, the building, like most Rosenwald Schools, was abandoned and fell into disrepair.

Restoration begins

“I was in the second grade when the school closed,” recalls Ralph James, the chairman of the St. George Rosenwald School Board, the nonprofit organization overseeing the restoration. Aside from his two-year stint in the Army and the time he spent earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Claflin University and S.C. State University, respectively, he has lived in the community his entire life. Since retiring, he has focused his efforts on bringing the school back to life, and his fellow alumni have worked alongside him in this effort.

“We’ve been working with the alumni for probably 20 years,” says James. They’ve had regular project meetings, which James admits sometimes turn nostalgic.

“When we get together, instead of taking care of business, we talk about the good old days and how things were,” he says. “But it’s exciting to see their faces light up and for them to have an opportunity to share.” uu

Delivering desks

The restored classrooms of the St. George Rosenwald School are being filled with vintage school desks, thanks to the efforts of Micah Thompson, a director of Loss Control and Training for The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina (ECSC).

Thompson is a history buff and antique collector. At the request of ECSC CEO Mike Couick, he began scouting area antique shops for vintage desks to donate to the St. George Rosenwald School. “A couple days later, on lunch break, I was in an antique store looking for my own stuff and saw an old desk,” says Thompson. He texted a picture to Couick, who told him to buy it.

“No pun intended, the rest was history,” says Thompson. Couick asked Thompson to find 20 more desks. So far, he’s found 30. “I didn’t have a place to put them. I was running out of space in my house.”

Recently, Cliff Shealy, vice chairman of the Mid-Carolina Board of Trustees, gave Thompson several pieces of vintage wood from old desks. This wood and the metal parts of desks recovered from the St. George school have become puzzle pieces for Thompson, who is restoring and reassembling them piece by piece, bringing the desks back to their original condition “just like they were the day they got abandoned.”

SERVING THE COMMUNITY u Doug Reeves (left) of Edisto Electric Cooperative and Ralph James, chairman of the St. George Rosenwald School Board, continue to work tirelessly to see the restoration project through to completion. When finished, the school will serve as a community center, public events space and museum. MICAH THOMPSON
The St. George Rosenwald School was one of the largest and most expensive of its kind. With six classrooms plus an auditorium, it cost a whopping $8,300.

In 2015, the town of St. George, Mayor Anne Johnston, state Sen. John Matthews Jr., state Rep. Patsy Knight and the St. George High School Alumni Association kick-started the restoration effort. A seven-member St. George Rosenwald School Board was assigned to oversee the project, with James as chairman and Doug Reeves, the chairman of Edisto Electric Cooperative, as vice chairman.

Work began in 2017. Since the school had been exposed to the elements for so long, crews first built a massive barn over the entire building. Workers then gutted out the rot and decay, salvaging as much original wood as possible.

“They dismantled this thing down to the ground,” says Reeves, “and brought it back up using the original stuff that was worth using.”

When the building was occupied by the Head Start program, each classroom’s beadboard walls were painted a different color. These boards were taken down and put in a big pile. Assuming the old colors would be painted over, the crew rebuilt the walls of the auditorium using boards of varying colors. The effect of the unplanned color combinations gave the auditorium a “very, very unique look” that everyone came to appreciate, Reeves says.

“I have yet to show anybody this room that didn’t say, ‘Don’t you dare paint over it. Leave it like it is.’”

Final steps

Six years later, the restoration effort is nearly complete. “We’re getting close; it’s within sight,” says Reeves.

In the south wing, two classrooms have been restored to look just as they did nearly 70 years ago, filled with vintage desks and a chalkboard. Linwood Ling, a local businessman who was in sixth grade when the school closed, says he was moved to see that the classroom looked exactly as he remembered it. “It’s a great experience just to see it come back to life,” he says.


The third classroom on the south wing has been converted into a meeting room, available to the public.

The north wing has two main rooms (the third classroom was converted into restrooms): the exhibit room and the event room. James says the exhibit room will feature school artifacts contributed by community members. The event room will be a multipurpose room used to host various history programs and special events. Both rooms will be run in partnership with the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry.

In the heart of the facility, the multicolored auditorium now features an elevated stage, a modern sound system, and plenty of seating for community events. Attached to the auditorium are three smaller rooms: a library filled with books originally used in the Rosenwald School, a warming room where food can be prepared, and the former principal’s office.

As for the outside, the coalition plans to install a dining car (a nod to a former teacher, Ezekiel L. Gadson, who was a porter on the railroad) that will offer a range of Southern fare representative of what students at the school would’ve eaten.

In front of the building, across the street, the school will erect signage to mark the old businesses of Uptown St. George. Additionally, James says the school will partner with the 1890 Research and Extension Program of S.C. State University to plant a community flower and vegetable garden.

Thanks to community coalitions like the one in St. George, the significance of Rosenwald Schools is being recognized across the state and nation. In 2021, the St. George Rosenwald School became part of the African American Civil Rights Network, and earlier this year, the South Carolina legislature with James, Reeves, and several St. George alumni in attendance voted to establish Feb. 28 as Rosenwald School Day.

For more on the St. George Rosenwald School project, visit or call (843) 860-3141.

James says he is proud of the efforts of the St. George community and that this historic landmark will once again be recognized. “It’s the jewel of the community,” he says.

REMEMBERING WHEN Fannie Brice (left), a majorette when she attended the St. George Rosenwald School, and Arthur Bell Johnson take their turn identifying players and coaches during a meeting of the St. George High School Alumni Association.
‘The jewel of the community’
“When we get together, instead of taking care of business, we talk about the good old days and how things were.”


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n Mulch annual flower and vegetable beds by the end of this month. Before laying down any beneficial organic ground cover, spread newspaper three to four sheets thick over the area as an extra barrier against pesky weeds.

n If established beds of such naturalizing bulbs as snowdrops, grape hyacinths, crocuses and daffodils have been putting on diminishing flower shows the past few springs, chances are they have become overcrowded. Wait until their foliage dies down to carefully dig up the bulbs and then replant, giving them more elbow room in the process.

Summer spinach

SPINACH IS A DELECTABLE GREEN many gardeners enjoy from their spring veggie patch, but with temperatures rising, the time for harvesting this cool-season treat is growing short. However, the coming of summer doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the taste of homegrown spinach.

There are two other leafy greens that, although unrelated to spinach, taste similar to it, even in the sizzle of a South Carolina summer. Curious? Well, let me introduce you to:

Malabar spinach (Basella sp.). This alt-spinach is a perennial vine in its Asian tropical homeland and typically not winter hardy in most of our state. Under the summer sun, it is an ultrafast grower dripping in thick, glossy leaves that taste like spinach but with a slight peppery twang. It resists bolting and turning bitter during the hotter months, but extended dry spells can put a bit of a bite in the leaves’ flavor, so irrigate regularly and mulch generously.

Okinawa spinach has also been a triedand-true ingredient in tempura and stirfry recipes for ages.


annuals such as zinnias, salvias, million bells, marigolds and petunias can become long and lanky and, in the flower power department, lazy. However, pinching back the plants when they are about 8 inches tall will encourage branching, which leads to bushier growth and more blossoms. And it is easy to do: Just use your thumb and forefinger to pinch the end tip off each limb. Later in the growing season, removing spent flowers will encourage a longer parade of blooms through the summer.

Give this vine room. It is also called “climbing spinach,” and that ain’t a lie. For the past few years, the pretty purple stems of Malabar spinach have galloped up one of my 8-foot trellises, spilled over the top and hung off the sides, looking for more territory to conquer.

Malabar spinach plants are becoming more common at locally owned garden shops, but if your hunt comes up empty, their seeds can readily be found online ( and are two good e-sources) and sprout very easily. Instructions: Throw seeds over shoulder and RUN!

Okinawa spinach (Gynura crepioides). This Southeast Asia native is a tender perennial. It has spinachlike flavor but with a slightly nutty tweak and hint of citrus, making for an obvious addition to summer salads.

Okinawa spinach will resist going to the bitter side in the summer sizzle, but to help maintain the leaves’ best flavor, mulch, water regularly and try to provide some light afternoon shade when the summer scorch is at its peak.

As a bonus, Okinawa spinach is a rather pretty plant. Growing to about 2 feet high and wide, it has slim, serrated leaves that are green on top but tinted with surprising-yet-pleasing purple underneath.

If you can’t find Okinawa spinach plants at any of your friendly local nurseries, they can be ordered from specialty growers at online sites such as Etsy and Amazon.

JACKSON is the former editor of Carolina Gardener magazine. Contact him at

SC | gardener
L.A. L.A. JACKSON FLOWER POWER Give petunias such as Potunia Lobster a pinch to pack a powerful floral punch. POPEYE’S NEW FAVS p Malabar spinach is a fast-growing, edible vine that stands up to the summer heat. q Okinawa spinach is pretty and, well, pretty tasty, too.



Stick with the funny bears

SO THERE I WAS, hunting down a topic for this month’s column, when I ran into some vital advice for campers on bear etiquette from the National Park Service. But my advice is better: To avoid being mauled, stay home.

The animal kingdom is not happy with us. In recent news, a Florida man walked out his front door and was bitten by the alligator squatting on his porch. In Idaho, a moose charged a snowmobile but tripped over it as the driver escaped. In New Zealand, a wild boar attacked a man at a barbecue, where he may have been serving one of its friends. In Thailand, an elephant knocked over an innocent truck and wouldn’t apologize. Animals are striking back everywhere.

But let’s get right to bears, since Carolinians don’t have too many moose or elephant encounters. If you meet a bear, it’s important to know what kind of bear you’re dealing with: brown or black. With a brown bear, you lie facedown with your legs spread like the police are about to handcuff you. That makes it harder for the bear to flip you over. With a black bear, you run for your life. Hiking in bear country is not for the colorblind.

In March, the agency offered another important tip via Twitter: “If you come across a bear, never push a slower friend down, even if you feel the friendship has run its course.” This might be important if you’re hiking with your ex.

As you probably know, the most dangerous bear was Pablo Eskobear, featured in the movie Cocaine Bear, which I saw while researching this column. The movie is based on an event that occurred almost 40 years ago, when a drug smuggler’s plane crashed and a curious bear ingested 70 pounds of its contraband. Then the bear goes on a rampage, attacking everyone in its path, leaving a trail of bloody, dismembered bodies behind. The movie was so bizarre, it makes Sharknado seem like a documentary. But it’s not for

the squeamish. The two friends I dragged with me both had to leave early. They couldn’t watch the carnage (and one is a combat vet).

We don’t have to worry much about drug-crazed bears. In fact, most bears want to avoid us. If you should run into one, you need to convince it that you are human. So grab your laptop and check the CAPTCHA “I’m not a robot” box. Show it to the bear. If you left your computer at home, make noise, wave your arms, and inform the bear that you are not a threat. Do not ask to take a selfie with it.

Some bears have a great sense of humor, so they might tease you with a bluff charge. Since they can hit 30 mph on the run, humans don’t find that as funny as the bear does. “The charging bear will come at you like a freight train,” the website warns.

If angry bears don’t scare you, there’s a job opening with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish that you might want to check out. They’re looking for professional bear huggers who are ready to enter a bear den at any moment. The department promises successful applicants the “experience of a lifetime,” although it might be a rather short lifetime.

Meanwhile, keep your bear spray handy and do not hike with your ex. To avoid freight trains, stick with the bears that are telling jokes.

JAN A. IGOE is a self-proclaimed wildlife expert, but you may want to read advice from people who crawl into bear dens for a living. Join us at

SC | humor me
Helpful advice from the National Park Service:
“If you come across a bear, never push a slower friend down, even if you feel the friendship has run its course.”

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